YUVRAJ Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned the clock back with a batting masterclass as the old warhorses’ twin tons powered India to a 15-run win over England in the second One-Day International and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series here on Thursday.
Coming into bat with India struggling at 25 for three, Yuvraj and Dhoni brought into play their years of experience to not only bail the team out of trouble, but also propel them to a formidable 381 for six in the stipulated 50 overs.
In reply, England fought to the end with captain Eoin Morgan leading the chase with a swashbuckling century, only for his side to fall short narrowly at the packed Barabati Stadium.
Needing 22 off the final over, seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept his nerves and conceded a mere six runs, even as triumphant skipper Virat Kohli punched his fist in the air in jubilation.
Despite being set a mammoth target, England were in the game as long as Morgan was in the middle, but bowler Jasprit Bumrah put paid to the visiting side’s hopes when he calmly ran out the England skipper in the non-striker’s end after he backed up too far.
Invited to bat, Yuvraj (150 off 127 balls) and Dhoni (134 off 122) forged a record 256-run partnership to put their team in a position of strength from a precarious one.
Yuvraj was on fire from ball one and hammered 21 fours and three sixes in his career-best knock in ODIs. The southpaw, brought back into the national team, could not have silenced his detractors in a better way as got to his 14th ODI hundred, which was his first since the 2011 World Cup.
It was a typical innings from Dhoni, who took his time initially before cutting loose to tear the opposition bowlers apart.
Dhoni, too, crossed the three-figure mark after a while with his last hundred coming way back in 2013 when he struck an unbeaten 139 against Australia at Mohali.
He ended up hammering 10 fours and half a dozen sixes, scoring his 10th ODI hundred in the process and first since handing over captaincy to Kohli.
It was raining sixes and fours especially in the last 10 overs with India plundering 120 runs.
Beleaguered England were required to bat out of their skins to overcome the imposing target, which they could not.
The total is India’s second highest against England behind their 387/5 in Rajkot in 2008. It was also a record score at the venue, bettering 363/5 against Sri Lanka in 2014 as the packed 43,000-capacity crowd were made to forget the disappointment of seeing India all out for 79 in the T20 International on October 5.
Dhoni and Yuvraj added 256 off 230 balls, the second highest for the fourth wicket behind Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja’s 275 against Zimbabwe, incidentally at the same venue in April 1998.
It was also their first double hundred partnership and 10th century-plus partnership eclipsing 158 against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2005. Yuvraj launched Liam Plunkett over extra cover boundary to move to the ‘nervous’ 99 before calmly tucking a short ball to square leg to bring up the magical three-figure mark.
Cuttack crowd could not have asked for a better innings as a standing ovation followed with the old warrior slowly trudging forward, raising his arms and looking up in the air and thumping his chests.
His 14th ODI hundred was his first since March 20, 2011 when he had slammed 113 against the West Indies in their victorious World Cup campaign; it was also his fourth ton versus England and seventh at home.
Yuvraj initially survived an anxious phase with his edges flying around. Having surpassed his previous best, 139, Yuvraj also lived on to complete his 150 after a DRS referral went in his favour.
On 149, Yuvraj was given out caught behind by umpire Anil Choudhary but he took a referral that showed the ball had bounced before Jos Buttler had taken the catch. The Indian duo toyed the English attack left, right and centre -- and Dhoni also managed to disturb the spidercam before completing his century with a single to Woakes.
Yuvraj’s epic innings finally came to an end the next ball when he edged Woakes behind the stumps. It was a remarkable recovery staged by the two veterans as they saw off a wobbly first 30 minutes when India lost Lokesh Rahul (five), the man-in-form Virat Kohli (eight) and Shikhar Dhawan (11) inside five overs. On a good batting wicket, Woakes reduced India to 25/3 in 4.4 overs. He squared up Rahul before inducing an edge at the second slip in the first ball of his second over, while in the last ball of the same over he dismissed Kohli at the same position with Ben Stokes taking a diving catch.
Then in his next over the English pacer brilliantly set up Shikhar Dhawan with two short balls followed by a full delivery way outside the offstump.
of the southpaw who could only manage to drag it on to the stumps.